Shiatsu literally means “Finger Pressure”. It is the Japanese art of massage using the five phase system of meridians and pressure points. It requires post graduate massage school classes, and much practice. It is an established system in Japan with licensure, and long apprentice trainings. There are many schools and types of Shiatsu in Japan. In the US there are a few good training programs for massage therapists. When looking for a Shiatsu Therapist, ask how much training they have had and experience doing it. If they only took a weekend course then don’t expect to be having Traditional Shiatsu.
I have had Shiatsu in Japan many times and most of the therapists were blind. It was gentle but had strong effects. They seemed to do much without mashing the body. In the West I had it with a graduate of Ohashi School and he was excellent.
Barefoot Shiatsu 裸足指圧
Using the same theory and methods of Shiatsu, Barefoot Shiatsu therapists use both their hands and feet to stimulate points on the patient while they lay on a floor mat. Perhaps, culturally unusual in the West the additional use of their feet allows stronger work to be done. I found it very effective Reiki 霊気
I lived in Japan for many years and never saw anyone advertising, practicing or doing Reiki. Although it originated with Japanese natives it seems to have various histories and lineages mostly evolving in the West. The Japanese word “Reiki” is made up of two characters both hard to translate into English for lack of equivalency and do to cultural differences. A close, but still poor translation is “Spiritual Force”; the actual explanation would require most of this magazine.
The training for Reiki involves one or more weekend seminars. After this brief training a graduate is called a “Reiki Master”. There is no word for “Master” in Japanese. Traditionally one becomes a “master” when all their teachers are dead. It is unusual to call oneself a “master” in Japanese language.
Japanese Acupuncture 針灸
Gentle Cousin to Chinese Medicine
Twenty some years ago I went to Japan to study sword and Aikido. Along the way I injured my shoulder doing acrobatics only young men do.
I went to the local medical doctor who prescribed a few things and had x-rays. It did not improve much and finally he said “We all go to the acupuncturist. We just thought you would not be interested being a Westerner”.
I went thinking it would be a good beer story to tell the guys. I walked into the office, removed my shoes by custom, and was greeted. The fourth generation acupuncture clinic was on the first floor and the family residence on the second. The father was a blind acupuncturist, and the son my acupuncturist. His mother showed me into a room with three beds separated by curtains and told me to strip to my shorts. It was cold.
The son came took my pulse, felt my abdomen, palpated my shoulder and proceeded to work on me. During the treatment his curious grandmother strolled through to peak at the foreigner. The room had several treatment tables separated by curtains leaving little privacy.
This was my first acupuncture experience. It was gentle, painless and effective. There are many schools of acupuncture in Japan. In the USA acupuncture is dominated by Peoples Republic of China acupuncture style. However, throughout Asia there are many types of acupuncture. Japan is no exception. Training in Japanese acupuncture is usually a post graduate program over a course of a year leading to membership in a Japanese Acupuncture association. Members continue their training often in Japan, and continuous trainings. Although some acupuncturists may take a single weekend course, look for someone consistently involved. Japanese acupuncturists are known to be gentle and effective.
Japanese Moxibustion お灸
Mugwort is a common weed that grows about the world. It is kin to sage and has a beautiful purple flower. Some of the oldest books of medicine speak of the use of it for healing. Many religious systems use it for spiritual work.
It has been used hand in hand with acupuncture for several thousand years. It is also used as a home remedy. Japanese law allows it use by priests, medical doctors, acupuncturists, moxibustionist, and family members. In the US it is generally restricted to those licensed in acupuncture. Each state is different but it is included in Acupuncture licensure in the State of Florida.
Moxa therapy involves the placement moxa flower fluff on top of herbal liquid which is lit on fire in order to steam the herbs into the body. No burning is involved.
Tai Chi Chaun 太极拳 and Qi Gong 氣功 (Chinese words)
Early mornings in most Asian parks one can find a group practicing graceful movements. “Kiko” is the Japanese pronunciation of Chi Gung and is practiced in Japan for healing and health. Kin to it is Tai Chi, a movement pattern for health, longevity and healing. It is called Taikyoku-ken太極拳. Most classes are for lay folks who follow their instructor and focus on maintaining their health.
It is always hard to summarize these systems since the course centuries and schools of thought. The deep aspects of the practice are often based on a life time relationship with an instructor. The lineage transmission is given to the student after ten or more years of instruction. Most lay instruction involves minimal training and methods, but still effective for health maintenance.
Are any of these Japanese Healing Arts for you?
Although a brief survey of the healing arts of Japan, one can see rich and varied traditions that have been used for centuries. Japanese people have the longest life span in the world. Through of combination of sources they have prolonged both the quality and the length of their life.
After graduation from University with degrees in Psychology and Anthropology, Cameron Bishop sold his car and bought a one-way ticket to Japan. He lived and worked in Japan for four years and studied healing and martial arts, attaining black belts in Aikido and completed study in Heiho Nitenichiryu, the sword style of Miyamoto Musashi. Having spent countless hours barefoot upon the mats training in the martial way, he found a path with heart in the healing mind. Upon his return he attended and graduated NIAOM with a Masters in Acupuncture. He recently graduated to become the first “Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine” in Palm Beach County. He is President of the Toyohari Association of North America and professor of Japanese Acupuncture at Atlantic College of Oriental Medicine. He has been in acupuncture practice for over sixteen years, spending five years working for a Western medical office. Dr. Bishop is a board Certified, and State Licensed Acupuncturist. His website is www.AskWithin.com.
Cameron Bishop DAOM, L.Ac.